SALEM, Ore. —The second phase of clean-up after Oregon's devastating September fires will be offered at no cost to property owners, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management announced on Monday.
While hazardous household waste clean-up is already wrapping up in areas ravaged by the Almeda and South Obenchain fires, Monday's announcement marks the first indication that state officials have a no-cost plan to clean the ash and debris left behind.
The clean-up will include mobile home parks, second homes, businesses and other structures destroyed or damaged by the fires.
Home and business owners that opt into this government-led wildfire cleanup program will pay no upfront costs for any cleanup work, OEM said. No government agency — whether state, federal or contractor — will seek payment from any insurance policy unless it is "specifically designated for debris removal or left over after the home or business is completely rebuilt."
The no-cost cleanup is available to home and business owners in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, and Marion counties.
“Our mission is to safely clear the ash and debris as quickly as possible, and leave Oregonians with a clean site so they can rebuild,” said Kris Strickler, director of the Oregon Department of Transportation. “This will take time, strong partnerships and a lot of hard work, but we’re already well on our way. I encourage every Oregonian who lost a home or business in the wildfires to sign a Right of Entry form with their county, if they haven’t already, to help keep this important work moving forward.”
Much like the earlier hazardous waste clean-up, property owners need to sign a Right of Entry (ROE) form to allow crews onto the property. The clean-up itself will include removal of ash and structural debris, hazard trees, concrete foundations, and burned vehicles.
"Wildfire cleanup is a two-step process," OEM said. "Step 1 is removal of household hazardous waste, which is dangerous to people, communities and the environment. This work is nearly completed in all fire-impacted counties."
Oregon is currently hiring contractors to carry out Step 2 of the clean-up, scheduled to begin in December. That step is expected to take between 6 and 18 months to finish statewide.
"The 2020 September wildfires were the largest and most expensive disaster in Oregon’s history," OEM said. "Nine Oregonians lost their lives, more than 1 million acres burned and over 5,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. The state has transitioned from immediate fire response to statewide recovery."
FEMA will be reimbursing Oregon for portions of the clean-up costs, and the state will fund what remains. Early estimates put the debris clean-up costs at more than $600 million, including $326 for ash and debris removal, and $295 million to remove hazard trees.